BUDGET: Wilson Finally Signs, But Wields Veto Pen
Gov. Pete Wilson signed a $75.4 billion state budget Friday that "contains an unprecedented $1.4 billion in tax reductions," but Wilson also vetoed $1.5 billion in spending that had been approved by the state Legislature. The areas that took the biggest hits were "[e]ducation, health and welfare." Wilson offered to restore some of the funding cuts "if lawmakers meet his demands for significant education reforms, along with a controversial bond package that would include new reservoirs and other water projects" (Bazeley/Bailey, San Jose Mercury News, 8/22). The AP/Ventura County Star reports that health and welfare took a $299 million hit from Wilson's vetoes (Willis, 8/22). However, in a major win for health care advocates, illegal immigrants will be eligible for "prenatal and perinatal care beginning in January" (Gunnison, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/22).
The budget also provides $6.1 million in funding for a Newborn Hearing Screening Program, which will provide hearing screening and follow-up services for newborns eligible for Medi-Cal and California Children's Health Services programs. The budget contains $104.3 million for the new Healthy Families program, which is expected to provide 580,000 children with health insurance once it is fully implemented. Also, $6.1 million is earmarked for the BabyCal outreach campaign, which since 1991 has used a multi-media campaign to inform pregnant women about prenatal care. Funding for the state's Elder Care program was increased to $14.7 million, which may increase by 20% the number of seniors receiving in-home care (Wilson release, 8/21). The Oakland Tribune reports that $227 million was devoted to "services and care for the disabled," a 13.7% increase over last year. Michael Williams, executive director of United Cerebral Palsy of San Francisco, said, "This is definitely a good first step. It's momentum we can build on" (8/23). The budget also includes $25 million for a state-of-the-art burn unit at Fresno University Medical Center (Fresno Bee, 8/23). The Los Angeles Times reports that overall, $15.3 billion of the General Fund was devoted to "health and welfare" expenditures.
The Blue Pencil
The Times notes that Wilson took the opportunity to cement his legacy as a fiscally prudent governor. "Adult Protective Services, which strives to both prevent and investigate elder abuse," took a "large hit." Wilson cut the Legislature's $32.7 million increase for the program -- which would have attracted another $25 million in federal and local reimbursements -- to $20 million (Morain, 8/22). The Sacramento Bee notes that Wilson "took away $40 million for three health centers in Los Angeles County" (Smith, 8/23). The Los Angeles Times reports that while budget discussions will continue over the next week, "there's little chance of a resolution this year" (8/22). "[O]ne legislative critic" noted, "We can come back on these things in five months with a new governor. ... He's a lame duck. He can't compel us to do anything" (Sacramento Bee, 8/23).